Oldest Parsi high priest is a lawyer, flautist

By Nauzer K Bharucha / TNN

Perhaps for the first time in the more than 1,300-year history of the Parsis in India, the community’s oldest high priest at age 83, was anointed at Navsari in Gujarat on Tuesday. Kaikhusro Navroz Dastoor Meherjirana, a respected scholar priest, is interestingly also an advocate, author of two books on banking law and a student of Indian classical music.

The newly-appointed Parsi high priest (Vada Dastur), who lives in Mumbai, plays the flute and is a follower of the Kirana gharana of Ustad Abdul Karim Khan, and particularly of the late singer Gangubai Hangal of Hubli. During his youth, KND, as he is popularly known in community circles, used to frequently give musical recitals on the All India Radio in Vadodra for which he was paid Rs 30 per show in those days.

“It will be my endeavour to attend to the controversial problems of the community with all love, sincerity and understanding, and without an iota of malice or hatred. Only on failing that I may take the help of my legal experience of half a century,” he told TOI on Wednesday.

On Saturday, Dastoor’s predecessor—Dastur Meherji Dastur Kaikobad Meherjirana, of the renowned Meherjirana gaadi (seat) of Navsari—passed away. Suddenly, there was turmoil in the community because he had no issue who could take over from him. Besides, nobody who had the necessary qualifications was available.

“Centuries long traditions requires that the new high priest be appointed on the third (Uthamna) day of the predecessor’s death. There is a Bhagarsath Anjuman Committee of Mobeds which is traditionally authorised to make the appointment. Time was short. My two brothers and I were the only persons available. I consulted them. They pressed me to accept, so also other prominent Parsis. An urgent meeting was called and the appointment was made. Due ceremonies were performed on the same day and the early hours of the next day, and here I am,” said Dastoor, who is also a relative of the deceased high priest.

Incidentally, Dastoor is the 17th high priest to be appointed from the priestly Meherjirana family of Navsari. The first Meherjirana (1510-1590) was anointed as high priest sometime in the late 16th century and was a honoured guest in Emperor Akbar’s court.

The late religious scholar Jivanji Mody had noted, “Akbar’s principal teacher in Zoroastrian lore was was Dastur Meherjirana, a leading mobed or theologian, whose acquantaince he had made at the time of the seige of Surat in 1573, when the imperial army was encamped at Kenkra Khari. Even at that early date, Akbar was so eager to learn the mysteries of Zoroastrianism, that he extracted all the information he could from the Dastur, and pursuaded him to come to his court in order to continue discussion.” Akbar later gifted him 200 acres of land at Gelkhari village near Navsari.

  • Yazdi

    Please don’t take this the wrong way, I just want to know. Why was “nobody who had the necessary qualifications” available accept for Ervad Dastur & his 2 brothers? What are the qualifications? Is it like the queen, nearest relation since the old Dasturji didn’t have any heirs? Does the new Dasturji have any heirs?

  • Tele

    Note : a typing mistake in the title.

    Please correct

    Thank You

  • Arzan R

    Yazdi, I’m with you. I’d love to hear some answers to your questions too.

  • rustom jamasji

    Yezdi..it could be because who ever does work towards the’ necessary’ qualifications are classed as orthodox, mad, fanatics,lunatics and degraded and so many become apprehensive…
    Just yeterday i met a scholar from Harward and was explained how interwoven the gathas are to other texts including the videvoat and how rituals explain an important part of Zoroastrianism, yet now pseudo cults negate such practises.
    Luckily orally and in practise the traditions have been passed on and also explained in later years, its for us to make the choice at this critical junction to either learn what we are almost abut to throw away

  • Behram Dhabhar

    It was the written wish of Dasturji Meherji that in case of his death, the Anjuman should consider his request to nominate Ervad. K. N. Dastoor. This morning, the Bhagarsath Anjuman met under the leadership of Dasturji Firoze M. Kotwal and Dasturji Meherji’s last wish was put forward and discussed at the meeting. After deliberations, Ervad K. N. Dastoor was offered the post and he accepted.

    Ervad Kaikhushroo Navroze Dastoor, 83, is a direct descendant of the original Dasturji Meherjirana. His late father Ervad Navroze Dinshawji Dastoor was an accomplished senior priest of the Bhagaria Tola having performed innumerable Nirangdin ceremonies and had for some time served as the Nayab Dastoor (assistant to the Vada Dastoor) under Dasturji Kekobad. His uncle, late Ervad Rustamji Dinshawji Dastoor, popularly known as Bapaji was an accomplished scholar of Avesta and Pahlavi and the author of the book used by all priests in their daily ceremonies.


  • Religious but Rational.

    PIJAN E PIJAN. For some, of what is the topic under discussion is of least relevance.I too met a Harvard Scholar complaining of severe migraine. Hope he is not the same Scholar.

  • Rational but Religious.

    Arzan &Yazdi,
    For answers to your query please read PTA column of Mumbai Samachar of 31st Jan 2010.
    More interesting is the crystal ball gazing of its author in the last para.
    Mumbai Samachar is available online for reading.

  • Anti-Dhongidox.

    R but R.
    You have to put up with fulminations of frustrated ultras, obscurantists, obdurate bigots and maggots who claim to be sole interpreters of our Texts. A joker told me that Harvard stands for abbreviation of HARishchandra
    Was the migraine complaining Scholar u met was from this “University”?
    As you would know deemed Universities proliferate.

  • rustom jamasji

    R NR the scholar u met from harward could just excuse himself from ure armchair philosophy with the migrane bit…after all the persians didnt have tools to make, nor there was cotton and the so many absurd claims you have made…

    Dhongi ure cotories ire against any one that academically is more intelligent is quite astonisishing…ofocurse the company you keep explains the harward abbreviations..

    But gosh u guys are contagious, one gets embroiled in brainless arguments…for ure wisdom makesstarts with negating zoroastrian texts,…to demeaning people you cannot academically challenge and thus not like….

    Im sure the harward guy u met was briliant…i must work on his principles and avoid or atleast not get irked with ure banter which actually are filled with frustrations

  • piloo.

    .”.academically is more intelligent’ Self praise????
    HarVard is the right spelling not HarWard. Do not mix up with Hayward Whisky ,academically MORE intelligent.
    And teach your pupils the meaning of the Word “transgression.” Pompousness and show off claiming having talked with a foreigner is height of shallowness.

  • rustom jamasji

    yes Piloo, only ure wisdom can represent taking into consideration a scholars view point into that of showing off speaking to a foreighner!!..

    I guess such arrogance and frustrations spurt out of the vengence to belittle….
    Thus the uni gets mixed up with that of whisky…
    Just out of the blue im sure youd know the difference between whisky and whiskey..since the university i was speaking of is in the U.S

    Migrane excuse , i must learn from that too!

  • Delnavaz

    Hi Piloo, Now now who is trying to show off ! :))
    It really does matter if Harvard is spelt with a V or W, as long as you have understand what the blogger is trying to say.

  • piloo

    It has never been my endeavour to point our small mistakes but in this case the concerned individual ridicules innumerable others endlessly posing himself as a saviour of the community. He feels he has liberty to ridicule others as though they are uneducated and he would sit in judgment over the intentions of others. That is what annoys a opposite person.He should learn to respect the views and feelings of others before earning respect. Humility is the hallmark of a genuine Scholar not arrogance.

  • Ms.Delnavaz,
    Can a person overlook the endless derogatory, derisive remarks used in infinite number of posts by the person on whose behalf you have spoken out against Piloo.Yes, Piloo did trivialise. But as regular on this portal you would have surely not missed the vituperative and intemperate language of this boarder who has made spelling mistake in the name of the University . Such adjective filled language is not confined against one boarder but is used against all and sundry i.e.those who refuse to accept his beliefs. Obviously,retaliation is inevitable from the other side.His post of 1st inst mentions words like ‘brainless’, ‘contagious’ and ‘absurd’ are just examples. A person claiming to be academically more intelligent would never deploy such terminology.I am sure you will concede this.

  • Anti -Dhongidox.

    Those who think alike on practical lines and agree with me are a ‘coterie’. But the ‘academically more intelligent’ has such a vast following that , I am sure if he ever delivers a talk, even the grounds of Brabourne Statdium will not be sufficient! Numercally his followers will outnumber even total number of Reliance Shareholders.!

  • rustom jamasji

    Dont jump from excuse toe xcuse like your group does when ti comes to anything it wants to ussurp under different pretexts…
    Your above statement is a blatant lie..look at your own posts….and hey Ive never ever acted as if to belittle anyone, thats your groups claim to fame especially after blaming everyone else as taliban etc…

    Stand up Man, atleast for once,…after challenging everything and anything you guys dont like, and when academically proven otherwise, you then blatantly discredit individuals and texts and when your chalenges dont hold water and scholarship and academics prove otherwise, your group taks recourse lastly in Tear Jerking…

    You talk of Humility, I guess your humility is quite amnesiac when it comes to belittling individuals and nitpicking…
    and yes standing by ones claim is also a mark of morality..which your group really lacks…and in the end I cant help f you and your group are so arrogant that you do not want to know, pass judgement with ignorance(look at siloo passing judgements on the other topic),then blame others of arrogance since they are ready to learn

    and dont lie , its your endevour to nit pick..and that is blatantly evident..

  • piloo

    I do not require any character certificate about my intellectual integrity from any body. I do not want anybody’s sympathy as falsely alleged.
    Besides I do not belong to any group or ‘coteries’. If I agree with views of certain boarders that does not mean that I belong to that group or coterie. Adjectives like “Lie’ “ignorance’ are testimony of arrogance. It is clear that it is the endeavour to force one’s views /impose them on all under cover of being ‘academically more intelligent’ that is most offensive.

  • Anti – Dhongidox.

    Excellent, Voice of Reason for your very effective reply, that too nearly 14 hours before the post of “Academically More Intelligent”. Admire your foresight.
    As you would have observed we are ONLY a coterie wheras one who believes himself to be academically more intelligent has an overwhelming multitude of persons concurring with his thoughts that should he ever decide to deliver a Talk and then establish that he has following of a majority,even Brabourne Stadium will be filled beyond its capacity.
    Voice of Reason & Piloo, many thanks for your outspokenness.
    But now I too am of the opinion expressed by one Pirojsha, elsewhere on this portal that it is best to ignore these individuals as they are not any authority to decide any outstanding problem. As Pirojsha has rightly said these elements cannot even break a baked Pappad.
    ANTI-Dhongidox. The words ANTI are in capital to enable possibly any visually impaired not to
    miss them.

  • Ahsan Rafique Butt

    Sorry to say, sometimes a few friends (for example Piloo, Rustom Jamasji, Delnavaz etc) become somewhat personal. Isn’t it? Buri bat!

  • Religious but Rational.

    Thanks for your outspokenness, Ahsan Rafique. More so
    since you are an impartial observer/reader.
    That is the problem faced by all Religious denominations, not necessarily Parsis, owing to emergence of intolerant fundamentalists who can not tolerate dissenting views of others.The only aggravating factor among Parsis is that they can ill afford such discord facing as it does virtual extinction in a time period of seven decades or so.
    And some harbour a belief that one who shouts the loudest and hurls uncomplimentary adjectives at the dissenting individuals will be assumed ‘authentic interpreter/ scholar’. Thats the tragedy.

  • a.rustomjee

    Mr. A.R. Butt.
    It is my belief that R but R as usual has left the discourse incomplete.Our community has a handful of Pedantics, so to say. They assume themselves to be the pillars of our Religion and think that but for them the Religion and Religious Institutions would never have survived.!
    They want to consider debris of the past as ‘archaelogical proofs’ In the past people used chariots but these pedantics now move in WV or BMW forgetting their archaelogical ‘proofs’.

    Paradoxically, Zoroastrians fleed from ancient Persia (present day Iran which has supressed freedom of speech) and now Parsees have a handful of “peaceful’ self appointed guardians of religion,customs and institutions whose solitary aim in life is to avail of all possible opportunities to see their names appear in some media and use threatening language to silence the thinking sections from expressing their interpretations. And these elements want to curb freedom of speech of others but are annoyed when called Fascist.

  • rustom jamasji

    Yeah as long as a rustomjee’s freedom of speech and wisdom to label those who do not want to convert nor enforce their roots on anyone as taliban is gtranted its fine…Thos who just wanna have the right to practse what their ancestors fought to preserve and not change it especially on wisdom that feel archeological evidence is ebris!!?? or cannot differentiate between taliban and someone who does not wanna convert others then misinterpretations , tear jerking is shown by showing his freedom gets choked and we leaving Persia becomes inconsistent with the reasson to do so..

    A Rustomjee,in your endevaour to once again label others and tear jerk that ure freedom is restricted and the zoroastrians who want to practise their faith without
    converting others nor enforce dokhmenishini unto others is seens as restricting freedom of speech!!…But then archeological evidence according to you is seen as debris!!?? hence it wud be too much to estimate that ud even guess that to protect the freedom to practise their faith without it being changed /disformed under as many pretexts as your group crops up, was the reason we had to migrate…

    Those who cudnt see the Zoroastrian grandeur destroyed Zoroastrian structures or claimed it as theirs..today we have those who claim archeological evidence is debris, and representing those who do not want to convert others as taliban wanting to change Zoroastrianism!!

    @ Mr Bhatt
    If someone excposes that what is seen as archeological evidence is debris, and i contradict it, doesnt mean that I insult someone, Infact that peson insults him/herself…

    Just like the same group here that wants to end dokhmenishini, think that Zoroastrians shamelessly betrayed the Indians…!!!. It wud be injustice if such false was not corrected and gone uncontested..wud u say that Muslims are betrayers of India or saudi or that Wshington didnt too enough for the USA …?!!or such false notions shud go unheeded..
    People belittle themselves when they say that Zoroastrians/Persians didnt have tools to dig n thus we have daklhma’s!?? This prove sons historical bankruptcy and arrogance when archeological evidence that are shown ae claimed debris!!!

    The point is the anti dakhma , demand thrusting groups main saim is ussurp everyones elses freedom of practising Zoroastrianism as the saviours left it , by their false pretext , thrusting their demands of change on everone thru blackmail, lies, false propoganda , using talibanisation..disclaiming all evidence and lastly tear jerking as being personal.

    Lastly I do hope that the group now feeling frustrated stops trying to pull names and people out of hats to sort of show they have support..(Which again they initially did…but they r known to run around in circles hoping from one excuse to otehsr)….after all I feel this blog is above the children’s or teenagers orkut group

  • puff

    @ A Rustomjee,

    How did you arrive at the conclusion that “these elements want to curb freedom of speech of others” ?

    Going thru the posts on this portal on can visualize that the “thinking sections” members are much more in number and post their comments more number of times inciting the peaceful members of the traditional community who only want to be left alone.

  • a.rustomjee

    My post was addressed to Mr. A.R.Butt and therefore I am not answerable to others who have the desire to impose their preconceived views on others.
    I have nowhere even remotely talked of conversion as stated by Mr Perpetually Present blogger.
    Puff: If you would have read messages of some wishing that other Parsee publications would only sing their tune, and black out opposing views, what inference does one draw.?In what way my post has disturbed your peace of being ‘left alone’ as desired. ?
    I do not belong to any group as imagined by the Pillar of Zoroastrianism, nor is it incumbent on my part to establish my credentials to a perfect inconsequential stranger.

  • Religious but Rational.

    Since you have become one of US and not them, a piece of advice.
    Do not waste your time arguing because they will brand you as” blind leading the blind”, little realising that a blind educated leading another blind is better than an ignorant with eyesight leading another ignorant. These ‘pillars’ as you have called, have dubbed others as cowards e.g. me as I use a moniker but when these ‘pillars’ emulate me, they expect a Veer Chakra for bravery !
    This portal is meant for exchange of views. If persons like myself or you express views, it is called ‘incitement’ and if these ‘peaceful people’ hurl diatribes it is rhythmic music intended for preserving and protecting man made traditions.
    Double standards is away of life for them.
    I too will add a DISCLAIMER: I will not reply any post of such holier than thou ‘enlightened ‘brave’ individuals.

  • Anti – Dhongidox

    R but R.

    I wish this blog is filled more from messages from teenagers who have greater intellectual foresight,fresh ideas and newer thoughts rather than from the senile and prejudiced
    pre historic ‘elders’. Late Prof Paul Samuelson of MIT once said “If the older always new better,the monkey would be the wisest man’.
    ANTI-Dhongidox. The words ANTI are in capital to enable possibly any visually impaired not to miss them.